Sight Aids

We may not know when or how Human Kind first found ways to improve their sight but the historic record shows us evidence of available aids that had the potentil to enhance vision.

Here I will consider sight aids, that is aids used to enhance an individual's vision of their everyday world. In optical instruments I will consider scientific aids that were used to measure vision, and to investigate the optical system and the natural world in greater detail.

Light to modern eyes is something that permits us to see the world around us. In a religious context, Light is illumination emanating from God that reveals mankinds way to a better life.

Although lenses as sight aids or helpers may have been known in pre-history, paired lenses or spectacles did not appear before the 13th century. However being fragile objects not many examples have survived so most of our knowledge of spectacles  comes from art work.

Some saints have connections with eye disease whilst others are often portrayed with spectacles. They are revered as patron saints of spectacle wearers and makers – even though they died before spectacles had even been invented.

  • Saint-Jerome is often portrayed with a pair of spectacles to hand. In his case, historians of art consider that in an age of high levels of illiteracy his spectacles symbolised his learnedness. An alternative reading for the presence of spectacles in any religious work of art is that they symbolise the magnification (as in glorification of God) that the artist wants to portray in a graphic format.
  • St Odila and St Lucy share the same Saints Day, December 13.

     

     

    •  Saint Odilia is said to be a patron of opticians, vision, eye disease and eye problems. She is portrayed carrying a pair of open eyes on the pages of a book 
    • St Lucy (Lucy has a meaning of  “light”) is the patron of eye. troubles and blindness and she carries her eyes on a plate.
  • In Suffolk water from The Ladywell has a reputation for curing 'ailments of the eye'.

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Following are some images in Art work that have associations with Personal Vision Enhancers (mainly, but not exclusively spectacles). Other images of PVE's and vision related objects can be seen at the College of Optometrists Museum or viewed online.

The Lawn at Goodwood as seen at Waddesdon Manor

St Jerome posing as one of The Four Fathers as seen at Wimpole Estate

The Tribute Money as seen at Kingston Lacey

The Arnolfini Portrait through the eyes of Conciatore

 Thanks to Whewells Ghost -Tribute to lab research mice-A monument portraying a labmouse knitting a DNAhelix was unveiled in Novosibirsk Russia My thanks to Whewell's Ghost for this image of a presbyopic mouse. Apparently it was commissioned as a tribute to lab research mice and portrays a labmouse knitting a DNA helix,  it can be seen in Novosibirsk Russia.

https://whewellsghost.files.wordpress.com/2016/06/emblem.jpeg?w=640

This spectacle wearing owl can usually be found hosting Whewell Ghost's History and philosophy of Science blog. Read on to find out more about 17th century owls….

 

 

The specThe Alchemist studiotacle wearer in The Alchemist's Studio by Jan Van der Straet (1523 – 1605) is presumably a wealthy Alchemist judging by his clothing and numerous helpers.

 

 

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According to Willem Bleau 'Geography is the eye and light of history',,

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Did you know the Essex based punk rockers 'Hot Rods'  mentioned Opticians in their 1977 occult inspired hit ' Do Anything You Wanna Do' (My thanks to David Baker from the 'Optician' for pointing this out).?

'I don't need no politicians to tell me things I shouldn' be

neither no opticians to tell me what I oughta see

Do anything you wanna do, Do anything you wanna do,'

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Myths have long claimed that poor vision was caused by reading in bad light e.g. articles published in the Opticians Journal  at the end of the 19th century repeated an urban myth of the time that reading by gas lights on trains was causing typists to need spectacles.

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Another 1890's Optical journal told its readers whilst Victorian working horses often wore blinkers to prevent them being distracted and bolting some horses that worked city streets were also supplied with sunspecs!

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